Looking Back

This month in mid-atlantic thoroughbred history! For Looking Back archives click here.

10 years ago
• Coming in off his fifth leading trainer title in Maryland in six years (and sixth overall) and ranked in the top six nationally by wins in 2001 and 2002, Dale Capuano was featured on the cover of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, with a story by Bill Heller that explained Capuano’s work ethic, family dynamics and success.

“I don’t know anybody who has the work ethic Dale does,” said brother Gary, also a successful trainer who had crafted the classic campaign of Captain Bodgit in 1997. “Even growing up as a teenager with my father, he was the first one up in the morning. On the weekends, he was at the track. Morning and night. And he still is. I couldn’t keep up with him. I don’t know many people who can. He checks every horse every day. And his memory is unbelievable.”

Capuano’s stable of between 60 to 100 horses was made up primarily of horses purchased for modest prices or claimers, plus a few bred by clients or in his own name. The latter included Capuano’s own modestly bred runner, Private Slip, a multiple stakes winner still racing that year at 9 and an earner of nearly $550,000.
• Long-prominent Pennsylvania horsewoman Jill Fanning, 75, succumbed in March following a long illness.
With her husband P.F.N. “Phil” Fanning, she bred and raised horses at their Ivy Dell Stud in Unionville. “She was a trainer with few peers when it came to timber racing,” wrote Joe Clancy. “Her horses won four Maryland Hunt Cups, seven New Jersey Hunt Cups and three Pennsylvania Hunt Cups.” Among her best was three-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner Cancottage (GB), who raced for her mother, Mrs. Miles Valentine.
• Two of the region’s most important stallions over the previous two decades died in late March.
Leaving lasting legacies were Smarten, 27, a Maryland-bred son of Cyane who stood his entire career in Chesapeake City, Md. (19 seasons at Windfields and Northview Stallion Station before being pensioned in 1999), and Virginia-bred Shelter Half, 28, longtime resident of Glade Valley Farm near Frederick, Md. (21 seasons).
Smarten was one of the top 3-year-olds in 1979 when the Ryehill Farm-bred, over the course of three months, won six consecutive stakes, four of them Derbies–the Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio and American. Described by his trainer, Hall of Famer Woody Stephens as “a tough sucker,” Smarten retired having earned $716,426. He went on to sire nearly 50 stakes winners and a host of wonderful producing daughters, the most prominent champion Classy ’n Smart, the dam of leading sire Smart Strike and champion Dance Smartly.
Shelter Half, a son of Tentam bred by the estate of Christopher T. Chenery, was a high-class sprinter before retiring to Glade Valley Farm. He counted among his more than 20 stakes winners the mare In the Curl, a winner of 10 stakes and a placer in 23 others while earning $749,891. At the time of his death, Shelter Half daughters had produced the likes of $891,500-earner Royal Haven and $724,532-earner Weather Vane.


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